Liquor Products Amendment Bill: National House of Traditional Leaders comments

Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development

18 May 2021
Chairperson: Nkosi Z Mandela (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Liquor Products Amendment Bill [B10B-2016] as passed

The Liquor Products Amendment Bill was passed by Parliament and referred to the President for assent. However, the President returned the Bill on reservations that the National House of Traditional Leaders (NHTL) was not consulted for input in line with section 18 of the Traditional Leadership Governance Framework Act.

The NHTL had now provided comments and the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) briefed the Committee on these comments and provided its response to each.

The NHTL was concerned at the inclusion in of 'traditional African beer' in the Bill. It said if there is regulation on African traditional beer, there is going to be a lot of confusion because there is no consistency on how each cultural group is making its traditional beer.

The Department response was that the Bill is a very circumscribed regulation of alcoholic liquor products for the sole intention of production for sale. The Bill only applies to traditional African beer that is sold for money. Traditional communities will still be able to make traditional African beer for private consumption.

The other provision that NHTL commented on was Clause 3 which amends section 4 of Act to provide that "no person shall sell or produce for sale any product with an alcohol content of more than 0.5 per cent… or including but not limited to a powder form" . The NHTL recommended that it should state clearly that it does not apply to traditional African beer powder.

The Department advised that traditional African beer powder should not be excluded as the sale of beer powder to children under the age of 18 is a problem. Excluding it will allow the powder to be sold in any shop with easy access to children and vulnerable communities.

Parliament Legal Services noted it had picked up a technical error in the passed Bill which would have to be corrected. The definition of 'traditional African beer' referred to section 6C. This should be amended to section 6B, as section 6C deals with other fermented beverages and not African beer.

The Committee was satisfied with the Department advice and agreed to proceed with the Bill unamended except for correction of the technical error.

Meeting report

Opening Remarks on Liquor Products Amendment Bill
The Chairperson said that the central issue before the Committee  is the inclusion of African traditional beer and its definition in the Liquor Products Amendment Bill related to quality control and regulation of alcohol content. There are persistent challenges of the sale of alcohol products to schoolchildren and the sale of African beer powder in shops in rural areas which is especially rampant with sometimes devastating consequences. We have an duty of obligation to protect vulnerable groups, especially children in rural areas, and to avoid exposure to a product that could lead to mental impairment that heightens the risk of physical and sexual abuse. We must protect our children and limit their exposure to harmful substances. The Constitution protects the culture, tradition and languages of communities; however, there is the higher consideration of protecting children and protecting them from the consequences of alcohol consumption. Thus the inclusion in the Liquor Products Amendment Bill.

Procedure for Bill returned by the President
Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Advisor, explained that the Bill was tagged as a section 75 Bill and must be processed as such even after the President's reservation that the NHTL had not considered it. The reservations of the President are procedural in nature because his concern was that section 18 of the Traditional Leadership Governance and Framework Act was not followed.

The legal opinion that was presented previously about processing this returned or remitted Bill was that the manner in which 'traditional African beer' is incorporated into the Bill does not seek to amend customary law or the way people follow their customs. In the previous meeting, the Committee made a resolution that it want to comply and meet the reservations of the President.

She spoke to the procedure on how the Committee will handle this remitted Bill and what the Rules of Parliament state about this. As it is a procedural defect in a section 75 Bill, Joint Rule 205 is applicable to the matter, and the Bill was referred back to the National Assembly and the Speaker referred the Bill back to the Committee.

Parliament has picked up a technical error in the Bill which it has taken the opportunity to correct. The Clause 1 definition of 'traditional African beer' made a reference to section 6C which should be amended to section 6B, as section 6C deals with other fermented beverages and not African beer. This means that both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) will have to approve the remitted Bill due to this technical amendment.

National House of Traditional Leaders comments on Bill & Department response Ms Wendy Ms Wendy Jonker, DALRRD Manager: Liquor Products Inspection and Quarantine, read the NHTL comments on the Bill. Ms Jonker pointed out that there were two crucial concerns that NHTL pointed out. The one was the Clause 1 definition of 'traditional beer'. If African traditional beer is regulated, there is going to be a lot of confusion because there is no consistency on how each cultural group makes traditional beer.

Ms Jonker  explained in response that the Bill is a very circumscribed regulation, as it is only trying to regulate if the African beer is going to be placed on the market for sale. Traditional communities will still be able to make traditional African beer for private consumption.

The other provision that NHTL commented on was Clause 3 which amends section 4 of Act to provide that "no person shall sell or produce for sale any product with an alcohol content of more than 0.5 per cent… or including but not limited to a powder form" . The NHTL recommended that it should state clearly that it does not apply to traditional African beer powder.

The Department disagreed saying that traditional African beer powder should not be excluded as the sale of beer powder to children under the age of 18 is a problem. Excluding it will have the unintended consequence that the powder can be sold in cafes and any shop with easy access to children and vulnerable communities. If Parliament however agrees with the NHTL to exclude traditional African beer from the Bill, then it can be excluded.

Ms Ngema said that the Bill and the entire principal Act are clear in that if traditional African beer is going to be made for the purpose of selling it, there must be restrictions and regulations on it.

Discussion
Ms A Steyn (DA) said that the clarity provided by the Department and the Legal Advisor would assist the Committee especially because during lockdown lots of people were making their own alcohol and selling it. As long as the Committee is comfortable including the definition of traditional African beer', then the Committee can proceedwith the Bill. She asked that, if possible, the Committee should get the opinion of liquor traders on this case just to make sure that there is nothing they are missing. The Bill should be corrected to include the technical amendment to '6C'.

Ms T Breedt (FF+) said that she is satisfied with the legal advice received and agreed to proceed with the Bill.

Ms T Mbabama (DA) agreed to proceed with the Bill.

Mr N Masipa (DA) said that the amendment of the section is important to ensure that people are drinking safely and agreed to proceed with the Bill.

Ms K Mahlatsi (ANC) agreed to proceed with the Bill.

Ms N Mahlo (ANC) agreed to proceed with the Bill.

The Chairperson requested the way forward from the Committee Secretariat.

The Committee Secretary replied that the next step would be to table a Committee Report on the Bill that will go to National Assembly for approval. The Secretariat will prepare the report and present it to the Committee on 25 May for adoption; then it will go to the National Assembly.

The Committee adopted minutes dated 11 May 2021 and the meeting was adjourned.
 

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